20.03.2008 - Big tankers tempt STX Pan Ocean

An order for four VLCCs is said to be in the works in South Korea.

South Korean dry-cargo specialist STX Pan Ocean is planning a major investment in tankers by splashing out at least $600m on VLCCs.

The Seoul-based shipping company, which entered the VLCC arena two years ago with chartered-in vessels, is hatching a plan to order its own newbuildings.

According to tanker sources, STX Pan Ocean is mulling an order for at least four VLCCs at its sister shipyard, STX Shipbuilding. Negotiations are said to be at the advanced stage and if the deal goes through, STX Pan Ocean will take delivery of one or two tankers at the end of 2010 and the rest in 2011.

Industry brokers think STX Pan Ocean will be paying at least $150m each for the VLCCs.

STX Pan Ocean is better known as a bulker operator but diversified into the VLCC sector 18 months ago by time chartering the 259,000-dwt single-hull Crystal Beauty (ex- Front Tobago , built 1993) from Chang Myung Shipping for five years at slightly more than $30,000 per day. The deal includes a profit-sharing scheme between the charterer and the owner.

Two months later, it chartered American Eagle Tankers (AET)'s 307,000-dwt double-hull Eagle Vermont (built 2002) for three years at $44,200 per day. Then late last year, it fixed two more VLCCs the 301,000-dwt Millenium (built 1998) and 308,000-dwt Eagle Venice (built 2005) for five years at $46,000 and less than $45,000 per day, respectively.

TradeWinds is told that STX Pan Ocean is now operating all the four VLCCs on the spot market.

"STX Pan Ocean would like to expand its VLCC tonnage further with chartered vessels but the hire rate is still on the high side," said a source close to the company.

In addition to VLCCs, STX Pan Ocean is also said to be mulling an entry into the aframax and suezmax sectors.

STX Pan Ocean is also involved in the chemical and products-tanker trades. The Seoul-based office operates 11 medium-range (MR) vessels and six chemical tankers, while its representative office in Singapore operates a fleet of three chemical tankers of 13,000 dwt.

"For the chemical-tanker business, STX Pan Ocean's Seoul and Singapore offices are operating independently," said a source.

Irene Ang, Tradewinds

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